The French shake hands more than any other culture. When you meet (whether this is the first time or not) use a complete yet quick handshake. It should not be too strong like a bone crusher or pumper handshake. When you depart company you would also shake hands the same way.

Kissing between friends, family and long-time colleagues is common. The French kiss twice starting with the left cheek, then the right. If you are not French, don’t initiate the kiss but be ready to respond is it is offered to you.

Wait for a woman to shake hands first.

Don’t be put off if your French counterpart doesn’t smile when meeting you for the first time. They are not trying to be put-offish but instead dignified and polite. The business culture is especially formal in this way.

Always be prompt for appointments. Punctuality is quite important.

  • olivier
    Posted at 18:34h, 08 November Reply

    perfecly right except one thing
    “The French kiss twice starting with the left cheek, then the right” . Never did that (neither seen actually) . One kiss per cheek is enough.

    • Clett
      Posted at 18:41h, 08 November Reply

      That is what I wrote – one kiss per cheek starting on the left and then one on the right. Thank you for your confirmation.

  • Georges Brotman
    Posted at 13:17h, 17 November Reply

    It should be noted that the kiss is strictly a touching of the cheeks, not a kiss (with lips) per se.

    And if more than one person is present in the room upon entering, it is good practice (and it is expected) to greet everyone with a handshake and a “Bonjour Monsieur, Madame, Mademoiselle”… The same practice goes for greeting everyone goodbye in the room upon leaving/departing.

    • Clett
      Posted at 13:32h, 17 November Reply

      Thank you, Monsieur Brotman: I appreciate your adding the additional information. Because of the graciousness of the French to both greet and say good-bye to all present we often think of them as the culture which shakes hands the most. I personally think that everyone should take their cue and do the same.

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